Terry’s DIY Giraffe for a Baby’s Nursery

This delightful baby giraffe wall sculpture was made by Terry Czechowski, who graciously agreed to show us how it was done. She used common materials that you can find at your local DIY store, and paper mache clay. thank you, Terry!

How to Make a Giraffe for a Baby’s Nursery

© 2019 Terry Czechowski

I hope I can remember the process. This was made for my granddaughter who is turning four this fall. It took me about two weeks working long days but needed it done so it could be used for the baby shower decor as well.

Step 1, cutting the plywood:

It is approximately 7’ tall and built on a plywood base.

Cutting the giraffe shape out of plywood.
Cutting the giraffe shape out of plywood.

Step 2, cutting and shaping the foam:

I used XPS foam insulation, the green stuff, and some white EPS foam (the beaded stuff) for some thinner layers. I probably used Gripper paint to adhere the foam to the wood and the foam layers. It is found at Home Depot and has great adhesive qualities.

I have since discovered Lowe’s Reserve brand works almost as well so I am always on the look out for oops paint in that brand for a great cost savings. I don’t care about color.

Using files to shape the XPS foam used for the baby giraffe.
Using files to shape the XPS foam used for the baby giraffe.

I often use some mechanical forms of attaching as well whether toothpicks, skewers, floral pins, or screws from the back of wood. I think I just used Gripper for the foam to wood on this, clamping it for drying time.

Cutting the XPS foam for the giraffe sculpture.
Cutting the XPS foam for the giraffe sculpture.
EPS foam used to build up the face details.
EPS foam used to build up the face details.
The foam attached to the plywood base.
The foam attached to the plywood base.

Step 3, coating the foam:

I often use drywall joint compound to smooth out the surface of the foam and fill in any gaps between pieces, followed of course by sanding. At times I have then used a couple coats of Titebond wood glue when dry to firm up the compound. But this one needed a longer term solution.

I coated it with the paper mache clay recipe from Jonni’s book for durability for a long term piece.

Paper mache clay.
Paper mache clay.
Coating the foam with paper mache clay
Coating the foam with paper mache clay

I am constantly on the hunt for coating options. Some of my projects are short term others need to be protected from inquisitive children. Expense is always an issue since most of my projects are for non profits. This one I hope to last long and needed to be safe for handling, ie no rough edges, but able to hold up to rough housing once bolted to the wall.

I used some of the paper mache clay directly on the wood for a bit of texture in the grass area. It adhered well to the wood and the foam. To be honest, the coating process was quite tedious. Many batches and perhaps I did not soak the tissue long enough but it seemed more fibrous and lumpy which necessitated my using small tools to put it on. It was very strong in the end so totally worth it.

Adding paper mache to the plywood for grass.
Adding paper mache to the plywood for grass.
Drying the paper mache clay giraffe in front of fans.
Drying the paper mache clay giraffe in front of fans.
Doing some final shaping on the baby giraffe's legs.
Doing some final shaping on the baby giraffe's legs.

Step 4, painting the giraffe:

I usually use regular indoor house paint due to cost and quantity with acrylics used for small details. The mane is done with Golden’s heavy gel medium for strength and texture.

I probably varnished this for an added layer of scrubbing protection but I don’t remember what I used. I often use the water based varnish made for floors that I got cheap one time. I figure that floors take a beating so should work for my sculptures.

Painting the base coat on the giraffe.
Painting the base coat on the giraffe.
Painting the details.
Painting the details.

Hopefully the photos will fill in any other questions you may have about how this was done.

Finished giraffe wall sculpture in baby's nursery.
Finished giraffe wall sculpture in baby's nursery.

Did you like this tutorial? Share it with your friends:

This baby giraffe was made with plywood and foam insulation from the DIY store, and covered with paper mache clay. The tutorial shows you how to make one for your baby. #DIY #nursery

36 thoughts on “Terry’s DIY Giraffe for a Baby’s Nursery”

  1. Hi Jonni,
    Fran from Australia. I contacted you a while ago and I am enjoying my rather large project which is a lady in a swimsuit who will be sitting on our patio once completed. I will send photos shortly of her progress.
    I am thinking about using ‘blue shop paper towel ‘ instead of newspaper and just wondered whether it is thicker than normal paper towel and where can I buy it ?
    Kind regards,
    Fran

    • Hi Fran. The shop towels are much thicker and more absorbent than normal paper towels, and I’ve only been able to get them to work with paste made with either drywall joint compound or plaster, mixed with PVA glue. With this combination, it’s the paste that makes the sculpture strong, and not the paper, like normal paper mache. Unfortunately, the Scott company doesn’t sell the towels in all countries. Here in the US we find them in any DIY store or Walmart. I don’t know if they sell them in Australia.

  2. Terry,
    What a beautiful job! Have you considered using luan instead of plywood? It’s thinner so more flexible, but lighter weight.
    Great Stuff is fun to use once you get the hang of it BUT wear rubber gloves. The stuff doesn’t come off anything—fingers and hands especially. Here’s one I enlarged from Jonni’s Patterns and created for VBS this year.

    • I have used luan at times. This one I wanted more strength for bolting to the wall and allowing for unbolting and moving to another space if desired in the future. This was made to sit on the floor or on top of the base molding so the bolts don’t need to support it just stabilize it.

      I am tempted to try Great Stuff. Have you had success using the can on more than one occasion? Is their new nozzle design effective for allowing reuse?

      If you added a photo it might have been too big as I don’t see it here.

  3. A word of caution: I usually do my sculpting with the layers clamped together then adhere them. Once dry the paint does not sand as easily as the foam so you end up with ridges. The other option is to make sure you don’t go close to the areas you plan to sculpt and keep the adhesive just in the general area. If you are going to coat this in some way that would prevent any lifting at the very edges.

    Others use the spray foam as their foam ‘glue’. Great Stuff is one brand. It sands well and can be used to fill gaps or act as additional foam. I have not used that yet mainly because it used to be a single use can. I think they have new nozzle design that is suppose to allow for saving and reuse.

  4. Cute! You must smile every time you enter the room.

    One question – you used Gripper paint as an adhesive? I didn’t know that was possible. I have used the product to change the color of hard to paint surfaces but that’s a new one for me. ; -)

  5. Muchas gracias Terri. Es una preciosa obra. Podrías por favor pasar la etiqueta de la pintura que usas como pegante?

    • I used a wall paint that has good adhesive qualities. The Reserve is a store brand. I would think if you ask in your local paint store they should have some ideas for you.

  6. Thank you all for the nice comments. A huge thank you to Joni for setting up the tutorial page for me but especially for all that she does here to inspire us and guide us in our projects. A million thanks.

  7. Well done Terry! What a lovely gift for your grand baby! I can just picture her day dreaming and staring at this wonderful character and having it spark her imagination, I’ll bet she has it named too!
    Your tutorial was great and the pictures were clear . Nice!

    • Thanks, Sandi. If Terry did start with that drawing, I think she made some really nice improvements. There are a lot of other drawings on that page that would work really well for a wall sculpture.

  8. wonderful, I love it very much
    it gives me ideas to give it a try with a cat model, thank you very much for sharing

  9. So…cute! a few inquiries..how much does it weigh? and how long did it take for the whole process? the timeline. I am thinking of doing one for a gift and I need to know from start to finish how long it takes. thanks oh and do you have a pattern to follow for the initial cut out in the plywood?

    • I should wait until Terry has a chance to answer you, but I’ll go ahead and jump in with a suggestion. A book like this one might have some drawings that can be used to make wall sculptures like Terry’s. Unfortunately, I don’t own that book so I don’t know if it has a giraffe or not – but the grid system makes it really easy to reproduce the drawings at any size. There are also quite a few tutorials online that show how to draw a giraffe, but I couldn’t find one that’s nearly as nice as Terry’s.

      • I use an overhead projector to get my design onto the wood. It may be obsolete technology but it still works for me. I got mine at a garage sale. I do a lot of large projects and murals so it is well used.

        As Joni mentioned, without a projector the upscaling could be done with graph paper and drawing the grid on the wood.

    • The bulk of the weight is probably the plywood. I was able to move it around by myself. I worked on it for about two weeks, sorry no hour total, but that would be different for everyone anyway.

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